People arrived in droves to spend their money, taking home wagonloads or armloads of state-of-the-art, high quality saddles, horse feed, bridles, horse bling, buckles, or sweatshirts, cowboy boots and coats for themselves at the 51st Annual Equine Affaire. There were almost 500 vendors and over 47 presenters, plus a multitude of horse related clinics. Over in the C Barn, there were 46 more exhibitors, featuring horses from New England Morgan Horse Association to Walnut Ridge Farm Haflingers from Medina, OH.
Joyce and Artie Green of Smithtown, NY are faithful attendees. “We spend a fortune here — we buy holiday gifts, horse food, supplements, tack, clothing for ourselves, plus food and hotels and restaurants,” said Artie Green, staying overnight for the four day event held Nov. 12 – 15 at the Big E in Springfield, MA.
Tickets for Saturday night’s Fantasia, a musical horse show, sold out months ahead of the performance.
As Fantasia began the day after Veteran’s Day, the show opened with a tribute to those currently serving in the armed forces and veterans, turning off the lights in the coliseum as the announcer asked people to hold up their cellphones as he called out which branch their family members were serving in, or had served in, a sea of stars in a curtain of darkness.
Dan James of Australia-based Double Dan Horsemanship, run with his partner Dan Steers — hence the name Double Dan — developed a brand new act for 2015’s Fantasia. He rode an appaloosa that entered the ring alone, that he arrived to bridle and saddle, then was joined by two white horses without bridle or saddle, to perform what could be called a ballet around the ring, the white horses following him, or twirling, proving his riding mastery, and a prime example of the invisible link between horse and man, as they performed seamlessly, both without tack.
Sylvia Zerbini also worked without tack with her eight Arabians, as she commanded them as Moses commanded the sea, asking them to part their ranks to flow around her, gallop around the ring, and return. A 9th generation circus performer on stage since age 5, she used body language, verbal cues and spilt second timing instead of leadlines during her moving Grand Liberté act, earning rousing applause. Monaco’s Prince Rainier had formerly presented her with the highly regarded Cup of Monaco for her work, seen by nearly 10 million worldwide.
Considered “good will ambassadors,” the Canadian Cowgirls rode their mounts sporting both the American Flag and the single red maple leaf of the Canadian flag, with a grand finale carrying a huge flowing bald eagle flag, fully 10 horses long in length.
Other acts included Haflingers being driven pulling carts in a high paced, carefully choreographed performance, and new acts by “Gladius – the Show” by Big Horse Productions of Las Vegas, NV with an aerialist, and sequined acrobats dressed as gladiators achieving handstands or splits on top of eight galloping Belgians. Old favorites, like The Knights of Icelandics, returned for the finale, riding out in a line of fire stretched across the dry dirt of the coliseum.
In the Better Living Building, were certified vet technician Kathryn Wakeman, and Melanie Shephard at their Rochester, NH-based Myhre Equine Clinic booth. Affaire attendees could view a large torsion surgery on film, or the actual pelvic bone or horse hoof. Wakeman attended Otterbein College – now Otterbein University- in Westerville, Ohio, then started working at the clinic 10 years ago. “We have both in-hospital and ambulatory, mostly referral work. They’re seen in the field; more in depth than they can do at the farm, come to the hospital,” complete with a surgery suite, MRI and Nuclear Scintigraphy to diagnose lameness problems. A horse patient is injected with a radioactive pharmaceutical that leaks radiation into bone and tissue, and examined, considered the best way to tell the lameness since the horse can’t talk, she said. Wakeman enjoys that, “We see all different kinds of cases, different kinds of horses, and an array of disciplines; some are backyard horses, some are really expensive horses, some are racehorses. Our day is never the same, always something different.” She doubles as a surgery tech, runs anesthesia, and when needed, will scrub into surgery. Shephard is their go-to person, first in line when a horse-owner calls with a problem.
If you missed this Affaire, don’t worry, another one occurs in Columbus, OH in April and returns to Springfield next fall.